The Rector's Blog
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February 25, 2015, 12:00 AM

Where does the time go?

I am always struck by the swiftness with which each new season of the Church Year arrives.  Somehow, in the focus on seeing to it that this Sunday’s liturgy is set and the sermon is written, I lose the longer-term outlook that warns of things still over the horizon, like the rising sun, or the Risen Christ.

I had such hopes for Lent!

Nonetheless, there’s a lot going on:

With luck, you will be seeing some new opportunities for service: we are working on developing a “Lenten Tree” that spotlights needs expressed by the prison, the Salvation Army, and other community groups, for the people they each serve, and we will be asking you to select from a number of choices, should you feel able to do so, and return with the items during Holy Week, for distribution on Easter Monday.

We’ve started our Sunday study of The Screwtape Letters, and had a lively discussion of what it means for us to be what Screwtape termed, “amphibians” – half animal/half spirit.  I’ll be sending out the next selections via email; if you have the book already, please read Letter #10.

We’ve also had the first classes in our series, Essentials of the Bible.  If you were not able to come in week one, you are still welcome in week two! 

Those who were able to attend this week have shared some wonderful insights about what the Scriptures have added to their lives.

There are many, many choices of Lenten disciplines and meditations available on line, easily found with a websearch; I do encourage you to see what appeals to you along those lines.

Here are my favorites for this year:

February 11, 2015, 12:00 AM

Stabilization and the Future

I’m turning part of my column over to Wayne Kyle, of Woodburn and Kyle, for a progress report on the upcoming Capital Campaign. I am very encouraged and excited to see this effort “bearing seeds,” and I am confident that soon these seeds will bear fruit.

Fixing the buildings is important to our parish community: here we center our lives in shared acts of service and worship; here we re-charge ourselves for the days to come; here we re-connect with one another; and here we pray together for one another and the world.  These buildings mean so much to us because of what happens here.

Our long-term goal is to be able to dedicate these buildings not only to our own use, but to our local community as well.  What needs in our neighborhood can we help meet?  What treasures do we have to share with our neighbors, with visitors and guests, with co-travelers, and with seekers and questioners
and skeptics? 

I ask that you consider these questions with a prayerful heart and mind as we go forward.  I fully and firmly believe that the Holy Spirit has a goal in mind for us:  that we find that point where our deepest joy and the world’s greatest need in this time and place meet, and then sharpen it with all that we are. 

Together we are strong.  Together we are faithful. Together we are able!


And now, here’s Wayne:

Since work began in January, the campaign structure has come a long way.  Informational and solicitation materials are almost ready and will be provided to prospects for their gifts consideration.  In addition, the database is being finalized and the leadership is just about all in place.  Currently, the leadership is attending Orientation Meetings to learn about their campaign roles.

The Stabilization Campaign will kick-off with an Informational Event on Monday, March 2, in the Great Hall from 5:30 pm to 6:30 pm, for all members of the Congregation and friends (refreshments provided).  The program will include short speeches from the leadership.   Attendance brings the Congregation together and provides crucial information about the Campaign.  The solicitation phase will extend through May.  

January 28, 2015, 12:00 AM

Demons? Really?

Because of the Annual Meeting, there will be no sermon this Sunday. 

That said, I was still looking at the Gospel this week (Mark 1:21-28), and had a couple thoughts.  Worshipers in the Synagogue in Capernaum were astonished at the authority with which Jesus taught and cast out demons.

I don’t cast out many demons, and, frankly, I don’t know of any other Episcopal priests who do, either.

For my part, I’m not sure I quite believe in demons as much as I believe in the power of God to help us through what Hamlet called “the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.”

Slings and arrows can be bad enough, as I am sure you know.  They might be losses, such as being fired or the death of someone we love; they might be burdens, such as a diagnosis of serious illness (our own or a relative’s), or employer demands that are simply too much.  I expect that you might have a list of your own, as do I.

So who needs demons?

I’ve noticed a certain tendency of many Christians to blame God for those slings and arrows: “Why is God doing this to me?”  Maybe we need demons to take the blame off God?

Maybe we need demons to take the blame off our own bad choices, our own mistakes, our own misuse of freedom or judgment?

Maybe we need demons to give us an excuse to not do what we know we need to do?  “The devil made me do it!”

The author, Oxford don, and Christian apologist C.S. Lewis used demons as a comedic way to make serious points about the true path of Christian discipleship in his book, The Screwtape Letters.

In this book, senior demon Screwtape advises his nephew, Wormwood, on ways to ensure that his “patient,” a new Christian, falls by the wayside. He says that a new Christian may soon come down from that mountaintop experience into a period of dryness and anticlimax. “The Enemy [God] allows this disappointment to occur on the threshold of every human endeavour. The Enemy takes this risk because He has a curious fantasy of making all these disgusting little human vermin into what He calls His ‘free’ lovers and servants – ‘sons’ is the word He uses…”

If you are feeling the bruises of slings and arrows, remember this: God did not bring you to this pass; God walks with you every day, whether you can feel it or no.

Above all, be not dismayed.  God is here.

January 13, 2015, 3:00 PM

Study Plans for the New Year

Thank you, I had a very nice vacation in New Mexico!  I did catch another cold, but I also got to spend several days with two of my former Foreign Service colleagues.  We visited Pecos National Historic Site and toured a ranch house that belonged to the actress Greer Garson.  We spent a day in a hot springs spa at Ojo Caliente, and we visited many stores where lovely crafts and art works are sold.  And of course, we had fabulous food and I even got some extra sleep!

While I was away, you were never far from my thoughts!  I came back with an extensive list of things to do and I am eager to get started!

I’m hoping to schedule an early start on our next round of classes in The Restoration Project – this class will be a five-session course on the Bible (obviously, we won’t be studying anything in depth; the course is actually designed to bring us into dialogue with the texts in a deeply spiritual way – less “fact” more “faith,” as it were.  This is not all bad: the Bible, if anything, is intended to help us deepen our relationship with God and each other in a felt way.

I’m also eager to start a new class in the Theology of Marriage – given the recent changes in the law regarding marriage equality, the Bishop has requested that we spend some time on the subject.  We will be using the book, First Comes Love?, which was written by The Rev. John C.  Morris (who was, as it happens, the priest at the Episcopal Church in my home town in Vermont at one point). 

A third class I’m considering will be in Lent, being a devotional study on the Sundays in Lent between the 8:00 and 10:00 services. If you’d like to help with any of these classes, by all means let me know!

We have a committee of interested persons to research options to provide an after-school music program for elementary school children in the neighborhood.  If you are interested, too, please speak to Starla Raley, Jan Vetrhus, or Peggy Hans!

Religious blogger Wayne Flint recently wrote that the fastest-growing demographic in America is unbelief.  If people come to church it is “for wholeness and for forgiveness and for grace and for serenity and for peace.”   If that’s you, too, and you want to learn how to convey what you gain from being a member of Christ Church, be on the lookout for our final educational offering:  Talking about our Faith.  I am working to set up some options, perhaps a workshop, on just that topic, featuring a guest presenter from the Diocese.

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